Green Cars

Rebound ready: Michigan firm builds chargers for Volt & Leaf

Rebound ready: Michigan firm builds chargers for Volt & Leaf It’s no secret that Michigan has been battered by the current economic downturn. Young people didn’t stick around after graduating, jobs left in droves, and a few titans of Detroit even had to ask the government for a bailout. The state is trying to reinvent itself with new leadership in Governor Rick Synder and an increased focus on new technology. Just this week a new plant opened in the state which will supply charging stations for Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf owners.

Ready to take the plunge with an all-electric Nissan LEAF? You’ll have to wait

Ready to take the plunge with an all-electric Nissan LEAF? You’ll have to waitMaking the transition from a traditional combustion engine car, or hybrid car to an all-electric version takes a leap of faith. More than 20,000 people are ok with that though because they’re on a waiting list ready to purchase a Nissan LEAF. The company is making those on the list wait a bit longer though, it has acknowledged manufacturing delays that will likely last until April. But what’s causing that?

Nissan isn’t sharing specifics, but it mentioned two things, the first of which is quality assurance. But the second is interesting, and highlights the risks whenever experimenting with a new sales channel. Apparently their distribution model that allows online orders directly from consumers for the LEAF is experiencing hiccups. Bypassing dealers certainly has potential to cut cost out of the supply chain, and the LEAF’s segment of drivers probably is thrifty and eco-oriented.

GM fights vaporware syndrome with 550 Chevrolet Volt demo units

GM fights vaporware syndrome with 550 Chevrolet Volt demo unitsBy intent or lucky intuition, GM is doing a smart thing: it’s shipping 550 Chevrolet Volts to dealers by the end of 2011. If your dealer is in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia or Washington, D.C. Chevrolet Volt demo units should arrive in the next few weeks. Considering some of the initial price gouging by some dealers, and ongoing strong demand for the Chevrolet Volt that’s a good thing because right now drivers are hard-pressed to test out the driving experience.

The EPA has given the Chevrolet Volt a 35 mile electric-only range, which is a shade lower than GM’s original projection of 40 miles. That likely has to do with the agency’s expectation of how the lithium-ion batteries will age and how real world conditions will cause other efficiency impacts. Overall, the Volt clocks in with the EPA at 60 miles per gallon equivalent (that’s an average of 93 mpg equivalent in all electric  mode and 37 mpg equivalent in gas only mode).

Will Volkswagen’s 260 MPG hybrid-diesel be more than just a dream?

rsz_vw-logo-bigYet to be fully discovered, diesel introduces an intriguing element in the hybrid market. Talked about primarily as concepts for years, several manufacturers have attempted to combine the efficiencies of diesel and electric to improve upon the already impressive MPGs now available with hybrid and electric cars. With Volkwagen’s introduction of the XL1 at the Qatar auto show, does it mean an hybrid-diesel car is now viable or does it just mean more dreaming?

New Volkswagen XL1 concept makes Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius look old

New Volkswagen XL1 concept makes Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius look oldVolkswagen isn’t shy when it comes to exploring bleeding edge vehicle technologies, and the company is demonstrating that most recently with its announcement of the latest XL1 concept. The concept is a hybrid car that uses diesel fuel, and Volkswagen claims it can achieve 261 mpg.

Compare that number to the 3rd generation Toyota Prius which clocks in just under 50 mpg average and the Chevrolet Volt which boasts an overall 60 mpg equivalent and it turns into at least  a 435% gain in fuel efficiency! The XL1 is curvy, sleek, and has covers over most of the rear wheels. That look will appeal to some more than others, but it will absolutely grab attention from others on the road. So what’s the catch?

GM is making Toyota work hard to stay #1 despite the “Prius premium”

GM is making Toyota work hard to stay #1 despite the “Prius premium”GM is racing to reclaim some of its lost market share after losing status as #1 in global auto sales in 2008 to Toyota. At the forefront of its rebranding, GM has focused on the Chevrolet Volt, which provides 40 miles of electric only driving and shifts to gas power afterward. That focus on green was likely inspired by Toyota’s success with the car model nearly synonymous with hybrid cars, the Prius.

Volvo demos semi-automated driving with car trains, but is it green?

Volvo demos semi-automated driving with car trains, but is it green?If asked directly, many people would answer that they’d like an automated way of traveling from place to place, especially if it uses a method, cost, and timetable they’re already used to. That in mind, cars are a major form of transportation for the masses and it turns out Volvo has been working on the driving automation thing for a while. Interestingly, the company took inspiration from an older form of transportation: trains.

Volvo demonstrated that a train of cars, with the right technology installed, are able to follow a lead vehicle down the road semi-autonomously. The cars monitor distance between each other, and overall try to mimic everything the lead driver is doing. That’s pretty amazing, and it certainly has implications for the future of road travel.

Toyota Prius is still the better choice than Chevy Volt

Toyota Prius is still the better choice than Chevy VoltAlthough 2011 has the potential to be a breakout year for electric cars, current policies and existing infrastructure continue to make hybrids like the Toyota Prius a better choice over EV’s such as the Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF. Whether the car buyer wants to lower greenhouse gas emissions or to have economical transportation, conventional hybrids remain the better option.

Toyota Prius PHV to squeeze out 13 miles on electric only in 2012

Toyota Prius PHV to squeeze out 13 miles on electric only in 2012Toyota ushered in a new way of perceiving hybrids with the Prius. They’re affordable, functional and are now nearly iconic in the hybrid car class. The company has held back when it comes to all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles, primarily because of concerns surrounding customer range anxiety. Staying true to form, Toyota is releasing a plugin-hybrid car called the Prius PHV in 2012 but it will only provide 13 miles of electric-only range but easily shifts into standard hybrid mode consuming gasoline. Compare that to other options like the Chevrolet Volt, which receives a larger 40 miles of electric-only range and at first glance it doesn’t seem to add up.

Ford respinning SUVs as "efficient & sporty" with new Vertrek concept

Vertrek Concept CarFord is making some solid moves toward the electrification of its vehicle lineup, especially with its recent Focus Electric announcement. But fortunate or not, cars don’t meet the need of every family and so the company is presented with a situation where it needs a larger, less fuel efficient vehicle capable of carrying more passengers. To address that segment’s needs Ford just introduced the Vertrek SUV concept vehicle.

The Vertrek still uses regular gas or diesel fuel, but it has a couple of features built in that make it different from an average SUV today. First, it uses Ford’s 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine, which provides the fuel efficiency of a smaller engine but with the power and torque of a larger one (gains up to 20%). The Vertrek will also make use of start-stop technology which means the engine will turn off when the SUV is stationary (another 5-10% fuel efficency gain). While the Vertrek is stationary it will draw power from a battery that’s charged partially by regenerative breaking, according to a company press release.